Speaking Out of Both Sides of the MouthShawn Drotar

Posted on February 27th, 2007 in Gaming, Playstation 3, News, Opinion by Shawn Drotar

So, the PlayStation 3 won’t have hardware-driven backwards-compatibility with previous PS2 games in Europe and Australia, instead resorting to software-driven BC like the Xbox 360. Personally, I’m fine with that. I’ve always felt that backwards-compatibility for new gaming consoles was at best a minor feature, and at worst, a complete waste of time, money and energy. The fact is that your “legacy” consoles don’t mysteriously vanish when the latest version turns up in your home, so why sell it for pennies on the dollar when it works fine and still plays games you like? I do realize that space considerations come into play at times, but as a general rule, backwards-compatibility might be used for the first few months at most, and then forgotten entirely.

So I don’t blame Sony’s decision. In fact, it’s the right one, as Next Generation’s Colin Campbell attests. But…

Sony spent a tremendous amount of time and energy on backwards-compatibility - not so much in building it into the PS3 - but rather using the concept of it to slag its competitors relentlessly. Now, only three months after the U.S. and Japanese releases of the system, Sony’s doing in Europe what they mercilessly criticized Microsoft and Nintendo for. The pot has called the kettle black, assuming that no one will notice.

Whoops.

The PS3’s backwards-compatibility has never been close to 100%, and to be fair, Sony never claimed that it would be - exactly. But Sony definitely intimated that it was far more dedicated to it - and by extension, its customers - than its competitors.

“Backwards compatibility, as you know from PlayStation One and PlayStation 2, is a core value of what we believe we should offer. And access to the library of content people have created, bought for themselves, and accumulated over the years is necessary to create a format. PlayStation is a format meaning that it transcends many devices — PSOne, PS2, and now PS3.
“If the developer wrote the game according to our technical requirements checklist, we will have what we believe will be almost perfect backwards compatibility. There will be some exceptions, there always are, but we believe those will be very few and far between. Even less so than we saw from PSOne to PS2.” - Phil Harrison, President of Sony Worldwide Studios (May, 2006).

In order to support their “core value”, Sony added PS2 hardware to the PS3, with the intent of removing it from future units when an appropriate software solution could do the same work instead. Apparently, Sony feels that they have found that solution for Euro and Aussie units, leading many to wonder if the electronics giant will alter existing PS3 units in other parts of the world, as well. You can guess the answer will eventually be - the one that involves less physical parts and lowers production costs. Which makes perfect sense… except for that pesky attitude thing again:

“I would like my car to fly and make me breakfast, but that’s an unrealistic expectation. We’ve reported problems on only 200 of the 8,000 PlayStation 1 and 2 games. I would challenge the average consumer to say that there are significant problems with any of the games in their library. If you look at our competitors, one machine has zero backwards compatibility and one only has it with a third of their games.” - Jack Tretton, President of Sony Computer Entertainment America (November, 2006), regarding backwards-compatibility.

Nintendo’s Wii, as it turns out, has a lot more than “zero backwards compatibility”, going so far as to include physical ports to hook up GameCube controllers on board.

The problem is that Sony’s gone out of it’s way for nearly a year to try and prove that Microsoft and Nintendo don’t think that gamers are as important as Sony thinks they are, using backwards-compatibility as a cudgel.

Now that Sony’s doing the exact same thing as their competitors, however, does that mean that they now think as little of their customers as they suggested that Nintendo and Microsoft do? I suppose that’s subject to your own interpretation, and there’s no doubt that this whole debacle will be forgotten soon enough… but in the meanwhile, no matter how you slice it, it won’t reflect positively on the Blu-ray’s baby-momma.

Perhaps Wired’s Chris Kohler says it best, when he simply suggests, “Dear Sony: If You’re Gonna Talk S**t, Back It Up”.

One Response to 'Speaking Out of Both Sides of the Mouth'

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  1. Terry said,

    on February 27th, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Nice read. Honestly, it’s how I’ve been kind of viewing this whole thing, and it’s sad. It’s almost like desperate jabs at the competition and they come off as exactly that…desperate. I don’t know why they’ve taken this approach, but it seems that more and more their past press releases, if you want to call them that, backfire on them lately.

    I don’t really care about backwards compatibility except for games that have no real alternatives on new systems. I can understand EA not making Madden XBox BC on 360 since they have an alternative. But NASCAR, for instance? No 360 version. But, as you said, with time it will become a moot point.

    Really an interesting take on it…I love the last article too. Too true.

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